In 1997 Jon Chandonnet was set to receive his Master's Degree from MIT and begin a job with a promising tech startup. He was disciplined, focused, extremely fit, and ready for the rewards his hard work had earned him. Then, on a doctor's visit, the kind many of us go to expecting to be told that nothing is wrong, Jon was told that he had Multiple-Sclerosis.
Jon spent the next six years, mostly symptom free and ignoring the diagnosis and the disease. In fact, he pushed himself to physical extremes. He increased his running to include marathons and cycled up a number of 14,000 foot peaks while working long hours leading tech teams as one of the first wave of Santa Monica's Silicon Beach employees.
Six years later, at age thirty-three, the MS caught up to him in a fierce way. Jon's body deteriorated rapidly and he was barely able to take care of himself.
Shadow Summit is the inspirational story of Jon's vibrant journey through denial and suffering toward a reimagined and reinvented life. In this wonderfully written memoir Jon reveals the intimate details of his very personal journey with MS.
"That period when I crashed was a decision point," Jon told me when we met recently in Santa Monica. "Either I could continue to spiral toward being a victim and hopelessness or take action. Being the victim has a lot of power. Everyone wants to help. But I didn't want that. I wanted to find a way to turn things around. I wanted to be a survivor, not a victim. Being a survivor began by figuring out how I could live with MS but not be defined by it."
Jon's memoir also reads like a love letter to Robyn for her super human capacity to support, sacrifice, and love.
Ready to try any and all new and new age cures and remedies, Jon embarked on his search for wellness. "But first," Jon said, "I needed to be sure that it did no harm. And then if it sounded like it might help, well, I didn't just dip my toe into the water, I dove in. But if something didn't work, well I ditched it and move on."
As Jon embraced new ideas to make things better, he asked that his medical care folk do the same. "Good medical doctors are innovative and open minded and willing to listen and consider what they don't know without embracing what they don't know because it's from the stuff that we don't know that change and innovation happens."
It's fascinating to read how Jon was able to reverse his symptoms and in the process became a walking encyclopedia of research and anecdotal information.
But life has a way of intruding and eventually Jon's almost singular focus on finding new and more healing paths led to a new imbalance. By then Jon and Robyn had a son and Jon was missing out.
"I needed to not be so selfish," Jon said. "Robyn did so much and allowed me to be selfish and I had realized that I wanted something different in our life. l wanted to be a partner and make her life easier, I had to stop just only focusing on myself or I would lose out on my son and my relationship with Robyn."
Clearly Jon's MS was not a gift - but it sent Jon on a journey that changed his life. His journey was due to MS but his path was not.
"MS helped me lead a conscious and intentional life. My journey helped me find a paradigm shifting, holistic health lifestyle, one where mind, body, energy, and cutting edge medicine intersect."
The next phase for Jon is to use what he's learned to help others find balance and lead a conscious and intentional life by using his own experiences and the principles of the 7 Vibrants. He coaches folks who seek change in their lives and helps them create new habits and put their desires into action.